TRAINER James Tate’s white rose pride was self-evident after sprinter Invincible Army stole a march on his rivals to win the Duke of York Stakes on day one of the Dante festival.
Though he now trains in Newmarket, Tate was born and brought up in Yorkshire. His father Tom is a longstanding trainer, his mother Hazel hails from the legendary Dickinson family and he served his apprenticeship as a vet with Mark Johnston in Middleham.
“That’s a local win. I was born in Harrogate and grew up in Tadcaster, you can’t get more local than that!” beamed Tate in the winner’s enclosure after watching his horse surge clear under Leyburn-based jockey PJ McDonald.
“It’s fantastic, he just seems to be different this year, he’s even posing for photographs and is calm before the race. He really seems to know what he’s here for.
“I’d still be concerned if the ground ever came up really rattling, summer fast ground, but as long as it is safe, which it certainly was today, it’s fine. It’s the first day of the year here and they’ve done a nice job. If it was softer that would be even more in our favour.”
Victorious in the Cammidge Trophy at Doncaster’s season-opening meeting in late March, McDonald – who rides Group One heroine Laurens in Newbury’s Lockinge Stakes on Saturday – rode a patient race for much of the six-furlong contest as the speedy El Astronaute adopted his customary pace-setting role under Jason Hart.
As his challenge petered out racing inside the final furlong, Invincible Army was just getting going and he powered home late on to score by an impressive two and a quarter lengths from Major Jumbo, with Yafta third. The veteran Limato was fourth.
Bookmakers made Invincible Army favourite for next month’s Group One Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot.
Tate added: “You have to think of Group Ones only from here on in.
“He gets six furlongs well, so we’ve only got the Diamond Jubilee, the Sprint Cup and the Champions Sprint, which will be the three main targets.
“We always thought he’d get to the top one day. His dam (Rajeem), who (owner) Saeed Manana raced, didn’t win her Group One until she was four and neither did Invincible Spirit (sire), so we always hoped this would be his year. I did hope he might do something like that, but as trainers, even when it is going well, you are disappointed more than you are not. That’s our biggest win. We nearly won a French Classic last year with Hey Gaman, though.”
Meanwhile Roger Varian’s Nausha claimed a narrow victory in the Musidora Stakes when Andrea Atzeni’s mount just got the better of the William Haggas-trained Frankellina and John Gosden’s Entitle who dead-heated for second.
n Leyburn trainer Jedd O’Keeffe’s Starcaster sprinted clear to win the finale under Jamie Spencer while First Eleven was installed as the early favourite for the Ebor in August after a gritty victory in the Jorvik Handicap for jockey Frankie Dettori and trainer John Gosden.